- Created on Sunday, 01 December 2013 14:02
- Written by Administrator
To Hans Wetzel,
I have recently been gifted a pair of MartinLogan Aeons. Since I live north of Reno, Nevada, I find myself in an audio desert. Best Buy's Magnolia shop has nothing special. At the other extreme is a Pass Labs dealer. So, I'm sure by now you know what the question is: 50Wpc Arcam A19 with, as you stated, top-to-bottom refinement, or the 100Wpc Rogue Audio Sphinx, with more power and a midrange that excels? I could go on. Will you ponder the thought and advise me?
One heck of a gift, Stefano. The one noteworthy thing about the Aeons, like most electrostatic loudspeakers, is that they're pretty challenging to drive. They have a stated 4-ohm nominal impedance, but drop to a cringeworthy 1.32 ohms at 20kHz. That is downright brutal on any amp. While neither amp is perfectly suited to tackling such a load, I think at reasonable volumes either will get the job done. A doubling of power, which is what the Rogue gives you, only provides you with 3dB more volume. On the other hand, the Sphinx has a slightly more robust power supply, but is also 40% more expensive at $1395 (including optional remote) versus the A19's $999 asking price. So pros and cons with both.
If you have the funds, I would spring for the Sphinx -- the extra power and larger power supply are practical improvements, while its exciting midrange should complement the Aeons' lightning-quick electrostatic panels. Honestly, though, you can't go wrong either way. . . . Hans Wetzel
- Created on Friday, 29 November 2013 02:21
- Written by Administrator
To Hans Wetzel,
I just read your impressions on the Hegel Music Systems H300 integrated amplifier-DAC and the Rogue Audio Sphinx/Pharaoh. I am in the midst of the same search, but with a variation to mention: my listening profile and gear.
I have a pair of GoldenEar Technology Triton Two loudspeakers, a Mac Mini for a source, and an Auralic Vega digital-to-analog converter. I listen to a lot of rock, pop, metal, and Latin music, and am trying to figure out if the Hegel H200/300 integrateds could be better than the Rogue Pharaoh, or vice versa. Because I don't need another DAC, I was looking more towards the Hegel H200, but I have been told that the H300 is a lot better sounding than the H200. In my case, I have never had tube gear, but it appeals to me. The only possible issue is that where I live we have a constant temperature of 32°-35° Celsius (90°-95° Fahrenheit). Of course inside the house there is air conditioning and I keep it under 25° Celsius (77° Fahrenheit). I definitely need a HT bypass.
Which one do you consider to fit better in my profile, the H200, the H300, or the Pharaoh? Is the Pharaoh better than the H200?
Nice system, Mike. Having previously reviewed the GoldenEar Triton Three, I imagine the larger Triton Two is quite the mean loudspeaker. Don't have any experience with the Auralic, though.
As for the Hegel and Rogue integrateds you mention, I think all of them would work. I was impressed with what Rogue's Sphinx integrated was able to do for $1395, and so I suspect the more powerful Pharaoh, which has a more sophisticated power supply and analog circuit, will be noticeably better. If you're interested in tubes, then the Pharaoh would be my suggestion. At $3495, it is $2000 less expensive than the H300, $900 less than the H200, offers a HT bypass and 175Wpc (far more than you'll ever need with your powered GoldenEars), and its class-D/tube hybrid design should sound delightful. I'm not sure the Pharaoh will offer quite the same outright performance as either of the Hegel models, particularly the newer and more refined H300, which we have measured on a test bench and found to offer distortion and noise levels well below what you would normally expect at this price range. But don't let that dissuade you. If I were in your shoes, the Pharaoh is what I'd go with. As for the temperature concern, I think it's a non-issue. . . . Hans Wetzel
- Created on Friday, 18 October 2013 05:18
- Written by Administrator
To Hans Wetzel,
Your review of KEF's R900 speakers was very informative and full of good information. I am interested in your room size as I am being advised that the R900s are too big for my room. My room is 5.6 meters wide where the speakers will be located, and the back wall is 7.15 meters wide. Length is 7 meters. It is about 45 square meters in area. I'm told I should get the smaller R500 but didn't really like the sound coming from them.
I live in Moscow, Russia, and have limited choices but have been looking at the Bowers & Wilkins CM10/CM9 surround-sound speaker system and Sonus Faber's Venere 3.0. These are available in gloss white as my wife is insisting on this color for our apartment. All the speakers will be used in a surround-sound system but I listen to a lot to music and will possibly get an amp that delivers good music as well as movies. At some stage I may get a separate amp and processor just for playing music. So maybe the movies would be the priority for the new amp.
The A/V receivers I am looking at are the NAD T 787, Marantz SR7008, Denon AVR-X4000 or AVR-4520CI, Integra DHC-9.9 or DTR-50.2, and finally, the Pioneer SC-LX87. Pioneer seems to have all the bells and whistles for the latest movie surround-sound system, but I don't know about the music side of it.
Any advice would be appreciated, and again I really like your reviews. I have not yet seen a review on the Bowers & Wilkins CM10s.
So let's start with the room. Converted to feet -- because Americans find the metric system too inconvenient -- it looks like your room is about 18’ by 23’. That is decidedly not a small room. Accordingly, I think the R500s, while certainly capable speakers, as our own Doug Schneider believed when he reviewed them, might not work as well as the larger R700s, or even the R900s as a stereo pair. A few months ago, I would have said without reservation that you should spring for the R900s. They are a 90+% loudspeaker in every parameter of their performance, and, along with PSB's Synchrony Ones, really are the benchmarks at about the $5000 USD price point.
Here's the thing, though. After having spent a goodly amount of time with some top-quality, narrow, two-way speakers recently, like Vivid Audio's Oval V1.5s and Sonus Faber's Olympica I, I'm now keenly aware of how giant cabinets can affect a speaker's presentation. My room is huge, with about 12’ ceilings, and floor dimensions of around 20’ by 30’. Unfortunately, my setup is really hamstrung due to my living in a city apartment, so their placement is far from ideal, sitting about 7-8’ apart, and non-equidistant from my sidewalls. The result is still impressive, but I now have a strong sense that the large cabinets of the R900s necessitate their being placed much further apart -- I'd say 10-12’, which means you'd want to sit equally far from them. Spaced, as I currently have them, the sound is a little confined or boxy. In retrospect, I should have sprung for the R700s, I think.
If you can afford to give them that much space, I say go for the R900s -- they're a large-room speaker, and properly set up, I'm confident you'll find them superior to the Bowers & Wilkins speakers, as well as the Sonus Fabers you mention. If you can't give them that much space, I would suggest either the R700s, which dig nearly as deep in the bass, or the R500s with KEF's matching R400b subwoofer. If you're building a home theater, and it sounds like you are, then go the R500/R400b route. The towers can play obscenely loud, and they use an uni-Q driver identical to their larger R700 and R900 siblings. As such, you are losing nothing in the sound-quality department, are getting significantly smaller cabinets (which will mean they image a bit cleaner), and will get even deeper bass (courtesy of the R400b) for less money than the R900s. Going with the R900s in a home-theater setup in a room with your dimensions is overkill, in my mind.
Both Bowers & Wilkins and Sonus Faber manufacture great-looking speakers, arguably better looking than the KEFs, but I have some reservations. I suspect the CM10s will have a warm, non-neutral tonal character, as well as a contoured frequency response that makes the speaker sound pleasing, if not ultimately faithful to your recorded music. As for the Venere 3.0s, I would bet they are quite neutral, and I know they're just crazy good-looking in person. But are they as resolving as KEF's R-seriess speakers? I doubt it. The Olympica Is that I have in for review are likely the prettiest speakers I've ever seen, but I do not think they are any more revealing than my R900s, which would seem to suggest that the Veneres would not be either.
On the AVR front, I admit to being wholly ignorant -- I am a two-channel guy through and through, unfortunately. That said, I might be able to give you a little bit of help. I know that NAD and Marantz make great-sounding stuff. I would also add to your list Anthem, whose R&D facility I visited last year, as well as Arcam, whose headquarters I toured a few weeks back. Both companies have highly competent engineers, and they are as concerned about outright sound quality as they are with connectivity.
On the Arcam front, I spent some quality time with their AVRs, as I explained here. Their AVR450 is terrific for its $3500 asking price, which looks to be within your budget. No need, to my ears, to purchase a separate amp or processor. Their $6000 AVR750, however, is on another level. If there's an "ultimate" AVR to be had, I think it's that one. Even through modest loudspeakers, the difference in sound quality between the two models was profound. Good luck with your search, and let me know if I can be of further assistance. . . . Hans Wetzel
- Created on Monday, 04 November 2013 18:19
- Written by Administrator
To Hans Wetzel,
I read your review of the Musical Fidelity M6 500i and wanted your advice on whether this amp will work well with the Bowers & Wilkins 802 Diamond loudspeakers. Also, will the matching Musical Fidelity M6DAC be much better than the M6CD, which has a DAC built-in? Is it night-and-day, or worth looking into? My goal is to put together an easy system that is easy to use for my wife. I have Focal Electra 1027 Be speakers, but have lusted for the 802s. I also considered the newer Electra 1038 Be by Focal, but like the looks of the 802 Diamond. Can you give a good opinion of the M6 500i with both speakers?
Thank you. If I dream, I will get the Focal Scala V2 Utopia -- will the M6 500i be good enough for that speaker if I was to get them?
The M6 500i is a peach of a product, short of the remote. It has more power than you should ever need, and would be just fine when paired with any of the speakers you mention -- Scala V2 Utopia included. It has an inviting yet expansive sound that I think anyone would appreciate. It isn't the last word in resolving ability, but it's still quite good. It's also worth noting that just because you have an expensive pair of speakers, you shouldn't feel compelled to spend a lot on the rest of your system so that it's somehow "balanced" in terms of component cost. Cost frequently does not correlate with sound quality in the high end. That said, the M6 500i is an easy recommendation, and despite not having listened to it in over a year, I found myself just last week fondly thinking about it.
As for the sound quality of the M6DAC versus the M6CD, I can't really say. I'm not familiar enough with Musical Fidelity's line to comment with any authority. What I can say is that they have a reputation for producing equipment that falls on the warm-sounding side, electronics included. I would bet both products are resolving, but so are a litany of others these days. Digital has come a long way, and one can get crazy high performance for not much money. There are plenty of other companies who offer startlingly good sound for around the same price. Arcam's FMJ D33 comes to mind, as does Ayre's QB-9, Hegel's HD25, and Benchmark's DAC2-series products -- though there are many more that probably warrant consideration. If you're set on staying with Musical Fidelity, and can forgo a Compact Disc player, my recommendation would be to just grab the M6DAC.
On the 802 front. They're splendid looking speakers. They sound great. And back in the day, they were one of the best speakers you could buy for the price. I'm not so sure that the current version is as resolving as some of its competitors in the marketplace. Regardless, you know exactly what you're getting when you buy a pair. Given that, your strong affinity for them, and the fact that they will produce quite the sonorous sound when paired with the Musical Fidelity amp, I say make the jump and don't pay a second thought to the Electra 1038. While I'm confident the Focals are at least as revealing as the 802s -- possibly more so -- they don't have the same pomp and circumstance. The Musical Fidelity / Bowers & Wilkins tandem will look and sound great 25 years from now. Go for it. . . . Hans Wetzel
- Created on Wednesday, 16 October 2013 05:20
- Written by Aron Garrecht
To Aron Garrecht,
I read your excellent review of the Bel Canto REF150S and agree with it 100 percent, as I have one of these in my system. I was thinking of getting another for my second home.
You alluded to the REF500S. Do you think the REF500S is that much better than the REF150S if one doesn't plan to drive large speakers hard?
In comparing the REF150S to the REF500S, I'd have to say that there are more similarities than differences. The most noticeable difference I heard, other than an increase in power and dynamic headroom, was the added control and articulation in the bottom end. I remember low frequencies sounding more resolved and a bit more authoritative overall. The differences in the midrange and higher frequencies were subtle at best. If you are running efficient speakers, say, 89dB or better, and don't run them at really high volume levels, I think you can easily get away with going with the REF150S. I remember that amp sounding more powerful than its specifications would suggest.
That said, if your speakers require a bit more power to drive them properly, or you crave arresting dynamic swings partnered with improved control in the bottom end, you may want to explore the REF500S. My recommendation to you is to see if your dealer will let you take home a REF500S so that you can do a direct A/B comparison in your system, driving your speakers, in your room.
I hope this helps, and let me know which way you decide to go. . . . Aron Garrecht